A method that allows researchers to estimate global rainfall levels using soil-moisture data could help to improve hazard planning for floods and landslides.

To estimate rainfall in places that lack ground-based rain gauges, researchers rely on satellite data of atmospheric moisture, but this is notoriously inaccurate. Luca Brocca at the National Research Council in Perugia, Italy, and his colleagues developed an algorithm that calculates rainfall amounts on the basis of satellite data on soil moisture. They compared their estimates with rain-gauge data and found that their method accurately estimates rainfall in several regions around the world.

Moreover, their algorithm is better than a state-of-the-art method at detecting light rainfall events and precipitation at high latitudes.

J. Geophys. Res. Atmos. http://doi.org/sp7 (2014)